Not long now until Spain take on Portugal in what’s expected to be one of the games of World Cup 2018.
Though Julen Lopetegui still remains unbeaten as Spain coach since taking the job from Vicente del Bosque, there’ve been a few worrying signs in their last two friendlies against Switzerland and Tunisia.
Neither side pose the same threat as Cristiano Ronaldo and Co., and yet they made life difficult for La Roja in their warm-up games for the tournament.
One of the areas of most concern is in attack.
Though free-scoring against the likes of Costa Rica and Argentina, only two goals across the two most recent matches will be a worry, especially coming so close to the start of the competition.
Costa has done some of what’s expected of him; ruffling a few feathers, bullying his way past defenders… but he’s been lacking a bit of nous. Something that’s most certainly required at this level.
His movement up front has been poor, and as such, he hasn’t been as much of an outlet as perhaps Lopetegui wants from his No.9.
Rodrigo Moreno helped Valencia to a Champions League berth and looked unstoppable on occasions in 2017/18, however, he too has been found wanting at international level.
A sub against Switzerland and a surprise starter against Tunisia, he had chances in both games but fluffed his lines on each occasion.
Kudos to the coach for giving all of his staff the chance to impress, but where his front line is concerned, he surely knows now that Iago Aspas must start against Portugal.
He is the one striker who has brought his club form to the international team, and his finish against Tunisia was the sign of a man full of confidence.
Having only come on as a sub nine minutes previously, his 84th-minute howitzer was hit first time and straight as an arrow.
It certainly saved Spain’s blushes even if Lopetegui brushed the game off as another chance to experiment.
The time for tinkering and debating is over. Now the real fun begins.
Though a loss in the first group game is by no means a disaster, neither Portugal or Spain will be contemplating the same.
That means the best and most in-form players will start.
And yes, that means Aspas.
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